I've been reading upcoming 40K release rumors on the blogosphere lately (don't worry, it's not interfering with my painting), and they have me greatly concerned.
It's widely apparent that a re-re-re-release of Apocalypse is slated for July. Great, but no one really plays Apocalypse locally, though I'm sure there are many fans worldwide.
I'd bet that most of you have seen the new Lord of battles model coming out for Chaos in this release. Big robot guy welded to a Baneblade chassis. Meh. Neat idea, but not something I'd want to put on the table.
I'm really more concerned with the rumors for the next Space Marine codex. They'll finally be recutting the Tac Squad sprues, which is great. I'm all for additional detail, so long as it doesn't force me to assemble all my models in one specific way like the arm/weapon sets on the Grey Knights and Blood Angels (and some small parts of the Space Wolves) kits.
Then there are the rumblings about Marines getting a new "super walker" kit. Something larger than a Contemptor Dread. This bothers me greatly.
I was/am drawn to 40K because of its background and atmosphere. The crumbling, rotting Gothic feeling is appropriate to the universe. I like that humanity is on its last leg, with its ultimate fate poised on a razor's edge. I like the constant threat of Chaos, baroque Chaos Marines, twisted cultists. I like the jagged violence of Orks, lithe, dying grace of Eldar (Dark or otherwise). I like that technology has ground to a halt, with even the most mundane of machinery kept running on prayer and rote. I do not like Tau or their aesthetics, because they break so completely from the Gothic image.
Then I hear about the super walker, and I despair. I love the simplicity of power armor, and I love the idea of Dreadnoughts. Eternally entombed warriors who slumber in forced comas until they're activated and interred in a millennia-old Dreadnought is so brutal, and yet inspiring. It retains the personal grit of warfare in 40K. While the Marine may be isolated from the outside world by his near-death state and physical containment in his ceramite sarcophagus, he still interacts with the battle on a tactile basis. He's there in the bloody trenches, fighting equal opponents.
But if you slap a Space Marine into a giant walker body, you lose that magic. Marines are superhuman, able to take on scores of ordinary men alone. They stride the battlefield in ancient and revered armor, and any Marine lost is a great tragedy for human kind. But to install that walking god into a titanic walker is to lose that tactile, personal level of warfare. A Marine entombed in a Dreadnought has failings: he's shattered wreck of a being, but he fights on despite that through force of will and genius of mind. His armament is formidable, but not titanic.
The super walker violates all of that, either by placing an already godlike figure like a Marine into a pure pilot position, or by making the fractured Dreadnought pilot absolutely unstoppable in an even larger walker. You remove the fragility, leaving a Voltron or a Might Morphin Power Ranger. Impersonal.
I get that GW is trying to sell large kits, and wants everyone to have one, but they're compromising the integrity of the background story by doing so. The Gothic grim darkness is violated when you invent new super walkers for Space Marines who don't need them.
I guess what I'm lamenting is the personal level of warfare that 40K fiction portrays. Yes, ranged weapons are used, and untold millions are destroyed in volleys of massive cannons, but those weapons still possess an appropriate level of Gothic imagery. The orbital bombardment is enacted by a press gang of a thousand men who often die just loading the guns. The gun is prayed over, anointed with oils, and revered as a living being.
Even a Titan requires a crew of hundreds to function, and at great expense. But to shrink down a Titan so a marine can pilot it removes all of the risk, all of the insanity. It's like putting Superman inside a larger Superman. You don't want to see Superman be a driver, you want to see him be super!
I guess what I'm ranting here is that I want my 40K to stay Gothic, stay personal. I don't want it to evolve into a clash of giant robots. Giant robots don't have souls, and a pilot inside a behemoth is not a hero.